The Liquid That Can Be Magnetized

Published: 21st March 2011
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When placed within a magnetic field the liquid substance known as ferro fluid can become magnetized. The fluid appears black and oily prior to becoming magnetized and then when placed within the field of a magnet it forms itself into tiny black spikes. The effect is startling and visually striking and it has been employed in both the worlds of art and science for industrial and commercial purposes. The Japanese artist Sachiko Kodama has used ferro fluid in many of her eye-catching works. She originally worked in holographic art but her interests have turned to ferro fluid because of its flowing motion. Many science museums will also employ ferro fluid in fountains to teach the elements of magnetism to children and adults alike.

In addition to being entertaining, ferro fluid has many industrial applications. It is used in computer drives to fill the gaps between spinning discs. Since the fluid is able to reduce the amount of friction between two objects, it has found its way into many mechanical devices where engineers need magnets to move across a surface without much resistance. In space technology there are currently experiments being done with ferro fluid to help control the altitude of crafts. In the medical field, the fluid has been employed to detect cancers with magnetic imaging systems. Since the fluid is able to generate heat it is also being used in experimental medical treatments that rely on a new procedure known as magnetic hyperthermia. The ability of ferro fluid to transfer heat has made it a useful tool in loudspeaker systems. When the coil inside a speaker heats up from use, it can attract the ferro fluid, which in turn has a cooling effect on the coil. In this way, the internal components of the speaker are able to be cooled without an additional energy source.

There are ways to make your own ferro fluid. It is helpful to take some precautions before doing so as the procedure generates heat and can cause the formation of toxic fumes. Due to these considerations, many people choose to acquire ferro fluid from a professional manufacturer. The liquid can also be obtained from hard drives that no longer work as well as many high end digital video disc and compact disc players. The liquid is oily and black; it can also stain the skin and clothes, so it is best to wear gloves and something to protect your clothing if you choose to make your own. It is important that you do not ingest any of the liquid as this can lead to iron poisoning. In addition, as one of the main ingredients in the ferro fluid is kerosene it is important that it be stored away from any heat sources to avoid fire. Ferro fluid is a liquid magnet that can be entertaining if handled properly.

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